Foreword: The following is a descriptive essay I wrote for my WR 121 class that I’m taking this quarter. While writing it, I wanted the voice that shines through my blog posts to be evident. Actually, while writing it, I tried to make it seem like I was just writing for a blog post. It really made the process a little less painful. So, in light of finishing it, I thought it would be appropriate to share it. Enjoy.
Seas of hipsters, embellished in inherent energy, beanies, and beards, sit below in the hexagon tiled lobby. Each one has a uniqueness to them, yet all share a common thread of striking and rather stereotypical qualities. Sectional-like, sage velvet couches border an oversized steel grey coffee table on which, read all over, black and white reading material is supplied and green plants upon greener succulents rest. Here, where I have taken elongated sips of chai tea, vanilla lattes, and mochas, and have exploded with laughter, among green velvet couches, is where I belong. One would think that a place like Ace Hotel would only exist in heaven. Yet God graced us with such a beautiful place on earth in the heart of Portland.
The atmosphere of the lobby is colorful and bright; abounding in love, smiles, and more laughter, it warmly welcomes you in. Depending on which way you enter, you are either greeted by the aroma of rich coffee beans and sounds of espresso machines or by walls of walnut and cream. Either way, you are swarmed with exuberant sounds and lively conversation. Some wait patiently in the long line within Stumptown, which is conveniently attached to the hotel, while others have finished waiting and are now enjoying their hot or cold drink next door. Some sit inside the restored vintage photo booth and take the silliest of pictures. I must say, I am guilty of taking part in such an act. Most people boast, some rest, and some refresh. It amazes me that in the midst of such a resonant atmosphere, one that is always filled with people and is rarely quite, it’s loudness is what calms me. It’s as if the chaos and escalations drown out my ability to excessively think about all the stress that life brings.
Entering by way of the lobby, the navy bicycles have always been an object of interest to me. In the far left corner stacked side by side, 4 bikes showcase their vintage charm, complimenting the warm and retro feel of the hotel. They make you want to hop on for a ride in the city and feel like a kid again. I would be lying if I said I didn’t take a picture of them every time I visit. Adjacent to the bicycles is where the beloved green velvet couches live and have their being. The velveteen is soft and worn from the many bodies that have occupied it over the course of time, but it still hones a roughness. I like to run my hands, side to side, along the backs of the couches as if they were my own. One of the many ways Ace makes me feel at home is the amount of comfort I experience while there. And these couches are unquestionably comfortable. Though it may be frowned upon, I could easy curl up, grab a blanket, and take a nap atop them. To the back of the couches, 5 large cream-colored block letters adorn the walnut wood focus wall, spelling out “Hotel.” This particular part of the lobby, between the couches and coffee, is magical. Sometimes I can’t explain what it is I love about it. It feels like a place where I should be headed after a long day of work, or a place where I can go away to hide in for long periods of time. It’s cozy. It’s warm. It’s bright, so very bright. And I dont just mean the light that seeps through the floor to ceiling windows. Everything about it screams bright and cheerful and inviting. Never have I felt unwelcome there.
Upstairs is quieter. Contrary to downstairs, the east facing wall is accompanied by a vintage pharmaceutical cabinet filled with words, from the past, present, and of things to come. I myself have left a handful of words in the upstairs drawers: My hopes, my dreams, and the thoughts parading through my head that remain irrational when translated onto paper. Each set of words are scribed onto pieces of note paper that, in the upper left hand corner, spell out in scarlet red: “ACE HOTEL PORTLAND — 1022 SW STARK SREET — PORTLAND, OR 97205 — TELE: 503 228 2277.” Sometimes I rip tens of these papers off of the pads for the sake of hoarding them in my purse for later. Sometimes I take it on myself to look at other peoples words that have been left in the drawers. Some would consider that an ill omen, I think of it as if I were reading excerpts from fictional novels: Love notes, farewells, other peoples parading thoughts, and ever so often: things I just did not want to know.
It wasn’t until several weeks ago on a biting cold afternoon in the Ace Hotel that I decided to seriously try coffee again. I never used to like it. It’s taste seemed like that of a Sour Patch Kid, bitter and highly unpleasant, nothing like what I’ve been told or have tasted. It’s caffeination? Unapparent. I still show no signs of an energy boost with coffee in my system. For all that I’m concerned, the only reason I ever ordered coffee was for the way it looked. The rosetta designs atop latte’s airy foam deceived me. But on that cold afternoon, I discovered coffee’s euphoric qualities in this place of heavenly proportions. I felt particularly bold and wanted to try something new, something other than tea (which still owns a very large monopoly in my heart). Ace has a way of making it easy to step out of your comfort zone. I went ahead and ordered a vanilla latte, knowing that if I got the childish hot chocolate I would be judged by the lingering hipsters. Anxious and somewhat impatient to get my drink, I turned my ear towards the lobby next door that rumbled in echoes of joy. It’s so easy to get lost in thought at Ace; it’s also so easy to get carried away while people watching in Portland. It always seems to distract me most while waiting for my coffee that I barely catch barista’s calling out my orders. That particular afternoon was no exception. “Medium vanilla latte!” Without accepting further delay, I reached my arm out to grab my, what seemed to be pressed upon me, drink. Before diving head first into my latte, I made my way back into the adjoined hotel lobby. I settled on a corner of velvet due to the fact that the lobby was suddenly full of people. One is extremely lucky to find and claim a seat on the velvet couches on a weekend afternoon. You can only hope, and pray, that you can at least claim a sliver.
Taking the first sip or bite of anything is always an experience. When it comes to coffee, it’s as if the world stops revolving for one moment. And for that one moment, drinking it becomes your number one priority. You do not have the time nor the effort to care about anything else because of how necessary conscientious drinks of vanilla latte are. Into the background Stevie Wonder went to fade, words on the New York Times disappeared from view, and every person seemed to transpire into giant blobs while I took that first sip. My eyes slowly closed and everything turned a bright black. The brightest black I’d ever seen. And slowly, very slowly, I indulged and fell in love with every part of my vanilla latte. You see, Ace Hotel has a heavenly, dream-like quality. One that is endearing. It marks you, changes you, and grabs ahold of you until you say you love it back. Not many places I’ve been to have done that. Like a person, it can cling. It gets stuck on you and you take a part of it with you wherever you go. Thank God for the Ace Hotel, for if I was to live without it, I probably would not be fully living.